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English Church Architecture -



TALLAND, St. Tallanus (SX 228 516)   (September 2011)

 (Bedrock:  Lower Devonian, Dartmouth Slates)













St. Tallanus, it appears, never actually existed and his name is merely a corruption of the place name of this settlement (church guide).  The church bearing this dedication, however, is another remarkably spacious one for so small a community (see also, for example, Lanreath and Lansallos), though its plan is by no means at all usual, for the tower rises to the south of the nave, to which it is attached by a porch with an east/west through-passage, and the building is set into so steep a slope that the S. wall of the tower stands barely to half the height of the N. wall.  Indeed, looking across the church from the high southeastern side of the churchyard, not only is the tower in front reduced to its uppermost two stages, rising mushroom-like out of the ground, but the rooftops of the rest of the building to the right, are roughly level with one’s knees.  (See the photographs of the church above, viewed - on the left -  at the lower level, through trees from the east, and - on the right - higher up, from the southeast.)  Turn left on this spot, through 90°, and stretching out into a blue haze are the wooded cliffs reaching on to Polperro and Fowey, and the breakers rolling up on the sands of Talland Bay.  (See the photograph at the foot of the page.)


Talland church, besides the tower and porch, is formed of a nave and chancel without structural division, an independently-gabled S. aisle running alongside both and only a few feet shorter at either end, and a deep N. transept.   Both the chancel to the east and the nave to the west are lit by three cusped lancets, closely spaced in the former case and widely spaced in the latter, probably witnessing the origins of this part of the building around the beginning of the fourteenth century.  Perhaps the transept was also constructed at this time:  it has a pair of short lancets in the E. wall and a longer pair in the W. wall, which may have at least some mediaeval basis.  The S. aisle is a Perpendicular addition in the usual local style.  The windows are three-light, uncusped and alternate-traceried, except for the four-light E. window:  they may or may not have been restored, for this tough grey granite is very resistant to the weather and their slightly un-mediaeval appearance may simply be due to the difficulties of working it.


Inside the church, the splendid six-bay S. arcade (shown left, from the southest) is the most notable piece of workmanship.  Each pier is formed of a single piece of granite, cut to the usual local section of four shafts separated by four hollows, but in this case the capitals go all the way round, instead of - as in the majority of the county’s churches with similar arcades - around the semicircular shafts only.  (See the second pier from the west, right.)  They are carved with simple, slightly-varying leaf designs, and the four-centred arches springing from them bear a sunk quadrant and what is probably better described as a roll.   To the east of the E. respond, a large rectangular squint looks through from the aisle at the altar in the chancel sanctuary.  The exceptionally wide arch leading into the transept is modern.


The church contains some interesting items of carpentry, including the especially rich wagon roof to the aisle (illustrated below left, from the west), which retains its carved ribs, wall plates and bosses, creating a admirable impression.  The nave and chancel wagon roof is Victorian but the ceiled transept roof and simple porch roof, also of wagon form, have kept their original principal timbers.  Roofs such as these, like the towers and arcades of many of these churches, seem likely to have been the product of a single local firm, for they are ubiquitous and, perhaps, all attributable to the late fifteenth century.
























Roofs apart, however, it is bench-ends that demand particular attention here.  There are approximately fifty in the main body of the church and more than a dozen in the transept, all of which seem divisible into one or other of two groups.  The largest and earliest of these could be roughly contemporary with the aisle roof:  they are decorated with a variety of mainly standardized patterns, but other elements intervene, depicting curious beasts and figures.  (See the two examples, above right.)  The second, smaller group, to be found in the transept and chancel, are probably Jacobean:  here the carvings are predominantly heraldic and one design in particular recurs, resembling three small combs, each with a long tine on the right, curling round beneath the others.  This appears to have been a rather lame device of the Grenvilles, and these bench-ends are approximately coeval with the two-storey pulpit and reading desk in the aisle, and the heavy communion rail in the chancel, supported on conventional turned balusters.